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What’s the best holiday gift you’ve ever received? Howard County residents answer

Larry Walker

President, African American Community Roundtable of Howard County

The Rev. Larry Walker says he received his best holiday gift shortly after his beloved mother, Joan Walker, passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 23, 1998.


It was at Mrs. Walker’s funeral that he recognized his calling. While reading scripture from the Old and New Testaments at his sister’s church; he says he felt her spiritual presence and encountered a deeply personal, never imagined out-of-body experience that one “could never prepare for.” And it transformed his life.

“My mother always told me she could see me as a pastor,” Walker said. “There’s nothing close to that gift.”


Robert Gillette

President, Howard County Veterans Foundation

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Howard County Times: Top stories


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On Christmas Day 20 years ago, sailor Robert Gillette was on leave in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, when a local tour group escorted him and 25 to 30 of his shipmates on a 10-hour excursion that gifted him with years of rich storytelling.

They celebrated Christmas in a tent in the desert, with a traditional tree, carol singing and a sumptuous saffron-infused Mediterranean feast. After a short side trip to an oasis, the men repacked their saddle bags and traveled back whence they came.

“We rode on camels, and they spit; it is one of my most treasured memories,” he says.

Clare Colleli

Winter/alpine ski coordinator, Howard County Special Olympics

Clare Colleli says she cherishes sharing laughter with family, friends, and Special Olympics athletes who are like family during the holidays.

Her favorite Christmas gift ever is a silly painting of a whimsical cow she received as a gag gift two years ago during a jovial family celebration. It hangs on the back of her bathroom door to surprise guests when they shut the door behind them.

“She has a grin on her face, long lashes and smiling eyes; she makes me laugh,” Colleli says. “I love laughing out loud, especially with our athletes, who are always so happy.”